Evaporated or dried apples, apricots, peaches, prunes, etc., are misprized, underrated, by most people from not knowing how to prepare them. The common way is to put the fruit on to stew without previous soaking, and then boil from one-half hour to two hours until it is more or less pulpy. It is then flat and insipid, besides unattractive to the eye.
There is a much better way. Soak the fruit at least over night, in clear cold water—just enough to cover. If time permits, soak it from twenty-four to thirty-six hours. This restores the fruit to its original size and flavor. It is good to eat, then, without cooking. To stew, merely simmer gently a few minutes in the water in which the fruit was soaked. This water carries much of the fruit's flavor, and is invaluable for sauce.
California prunes prepared in this way need no sugar. Dried apples and peaches have none of the rank taste by which they are unfavorably known, but resemble the canned fruit. Apricots properly soaked are especially good.
I was present when a Southern mountain woman did some "experi-encin'," with nothing to guide her but her own wits. The result was a discovery of prime value to us campers. Here are the details—any one can follow them:
Wash one pound of evaporated apples (or common sun-dried apples of the country) in two waters. Cover with boiling water, and put them on to stew. Add boiling water as required to keep them covered. Cook until fruit is soft (about half an hour). Strain off all the juice (cheesecloth is convenient), and measure it. There will be, probably, a quart. Put this juice on the fire and add half its own measure of granulated sugar (say a scant pound—but measure it, to make sure of the proportion).
Now boil this briskly in a broad, uncovered vessel, without stirring or skimming, until the juice gets syrupy. The time varies according to quality of fruit—generally about twenty minutes after coming to a full boil. When the thickened juice begins to "flop," test it by letting a few drops drip from a spoon. When the drops thicken and adhere to the spoon, the syrup is done. There will be a little more than a pint. Pour it out. As soon«as it cools it will be jelly, as good as if made from fresh fruit and much better than what is commonly sold in the stores.
The apples remaining can be spiced and used as sauce, or made into pies or turnovers, or into apple butter by beating smooth, adding a tea-cupful of sugar, spicing, and cooking again for fifteen or twenty minutes.
If preferred, a second run of jelly can be made from the same apples. Cover again with boiling water, stew about fifteen minutes, add sugar by measure, as before. This will take less boiling than the first juice (about seven minutes). Enough jelly will result to make nearly or quite a quart, all told, from one pound of dried apples and about one and one-half pounds of sugar.
Apricots or any other tart dried fruit can be used instead of apples. Sweet fruit will •-not do, unless lemon juice or real apple vinegar is added.
American wild fruits ripen as follows:
Chickasaw Plum (to July). Wild Strawberries.
Woolly-leaved Buckthorn. Dewberry.
Service-berry (June-berry). Shad-bush.
Blackberries (some in Sep.). Bilberries. Blueberries. Huckleberries. Buffalo-berry. Choke Cherry. Wild Black Currant. Wild Gooseberries. Riverside Grape (to Oct.). Wild Raspberries (to Sep.). Salmon-berry. Silver-berry.
Sand Cherry. Western Wild Cherry. Wild Red Cherry. Elderberry. Sand Grape. Canada Plum. Porter's Plum.
Wild Black Cherry. Fox Grape.
Wild Red Plum (to Oct.). Snowberry.
Wild Crab-apples. Summer Grape. Haws.
Beach Plum. Wild Goose Plum. Large-fruited Thorn. Scarlet Thorn.
Missouri Grape. Black Thorn.
Edible After Frost.
Mix 1 quart of flour with 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1 tablespoonful of baking powder, and 1 pint of granulated sugar, and 1/2 nutmeg grated. Make a batter of this with 4 beaten eggs and enough milk to make smooth. Beat thoroughly and add enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll out into a sheet 1/2 Inch thick and cut into rings or strips, which may be twisted into shape. Fry in very hot fat; turn when necessary. Drain and serve hot.
This is a Pennsylvania-Dutch dish, and a good one for campers. Take some dried apples and soak them over night. Boil until tender. Prepare knepp as directed for pot-pie dough, only make a thick batter of it instead of a dough. It is best to add an egg and use no shortening. Drop the batter into the pan of stewing apples, a large spoonful at a time, not fast enough to check the boiling. Boil about ^> hour. Season with butter, sugar, and cinnamon.